Paradise Recalled


(With apologies to Milton)

I, who erewhile in happy childhood played
In Ridgeway attics and the quay, now sing
Uncovered Paradise in Castletown,
Where to my Mam obedient I was led
Through from the station and the tented field,
And through the aisles of road and river bridge,
To Milner Terrace and its wilderness;
Now visit once again in memory
This narrow passage skirting by the field
Against the mineral flow from gasworks fence,
And closed alike to cart and bicycle,
Which were forbidden though in secret done;
For, unrecorded, lads of many an age
Rode through it and remained for long unhung.
Full fourteen times we passed, whether in April
Sometimes, anon in shady May, each time
Under the pretext of visiting aunt
To see her, to extract from her the news,
Or harboured in one room to have a meal.
I’ve tasted better food, but hunger felt
Since those days ended, hungry to the last
Among fine feasts: they at the thought grew huge,
And leap with cakes and scones, while aunt did talk.
Her fiery repertoire and anxious form
To lying tongue and slander gave reproof,
And though an agèd dame in widow’s weeds
Following, as seemed, the quest of some stray news,
Like withered sticks to gather which might serve
Against a visitor’s call, when winds blow keen,
So warmed she us arrived from Douglas Town
On our approach, but first with curious eye
Appraised me and with words thus uttered spake:
“Boy, what good chance hath brought thee to this place,
So far from play and railway trains, which pass
Far off, or cable trams, or even school
Which thou art old enough now to attend?
And how’s thy father and the family?
For that to me thou seem’st a man, whom late
I knew baptized at Matthew’s by the ford”.
To whom my mother said: “I brought him hither
“For this good sense, to school he goes next week”.
And so the talk went on, and so the day
Waned towards evening, whilst I looked and saw
The narrow street outside where folk in troops,
In coats of tweed, and other things arrayed,
Passed by on foot; sometimes in car with horn,
Chariots and landaulettes, enhorsed in fours,
A multitude, with muffs and bonnets armed.
So talked they, while the son of one looked out
And stayed put, till the aunt then called him thus:
“The tea is wet, the scones hot; come and warm
Thine innards ere thou hast to return home”.
Sometimes unto the shop of cherry pipes
Would we repair, my mother to indulge
In more reminiscences, whilst I gazed
Out through the little window at the back
To see the harboured ships ride on the tide,
Until the time by time-table decreed
That we should not remain much longer there.
Thus we, the son and mother, then did seek
Our way through Paradise, by feast refreshed,
Brought on our way by aunt. Then on the train
Home to our Douglas house quite late returned.

August, 1927